Taking direct action, (French) cooperative style

The closure of the Channel Tunnel and Dover-Calais port on Tuesday, which caused so much fury in the British tabloid press, has a direct co-operative connection: it was the result of industrial action by members of the SCOP  SeaFrance workers’ co-operative, fighting to save their jobs following the recent decision by Eurotunnel to sell two ferries and cancel the management agreement with their coop. (For the background see my previous postings). The issue of whether the cooperative will be able to survive remains a very live one at the moment in France. More updates here, as and when.

Dover-Calais ferry coop hits turbulent waters

Sadly it is looking increasingly unlikely that British holidaymakers will be able to choose a cooperative option when planning to take their car across to France.

The future of the workers cooperative (SCOP SeaFrance) based in Calais, which employs over 600 staff, is highly uncertain. Eurotunnel, which currently owns the My Ferry Link Dover-Calais ferries had previously contracted the management of the service to the cooperative. However, it withdrew from this agreement two days ago (June 2). SCOP SeaFrance is now likely to have to go into legal administration.

The story is complicated: the UK Competition and Markets Authority had ruled that Eurotunnel was breaking competition law by owning the ferries as well as the Channel Tunnel, and Eurotunnel put its ferry business up for sale in January.  As a consequence the cooperative joined a broader social enterprise venture which made a formal bid for the business, one of several received.

However after all this a major surprise: the British supreme court ruled last month that Eurotunnel was not, in fact, in breach of competition law. Eurotunnel say that, despite this, the sale is going ahead – and that their previous decision to terminate the deal with SCOP SeaFrance will not be revoked.

There remains a slim chance that a new cooperative solution of some kind may be possible.